I Don’t Make Resolutions. But I Still Have Purpose. Here’s How I Do My Thing.

There's nothing wrong with making New Year's resolutions. But it's not the only way to find purpose and make progress.

I stopped making New Year's resolutions a few years ago. I don't have anything against them. They just weren't serving my life anymore. Over the years, I've found there are different ways to set intentions, pursue goals, and do whatever it is that gives you a sense of purpose.

How we do the thing often depends on where we're at in the journey and the tools currently available to us. I've reached a point where a combination of luck, privilege, hard work, money, and four decades' worth of perspective have allowed me to take certain liberties with my life.

So I don't make resolutions.

How my position on resolutions has evolved

Back in the day, like so many people, I just went ahead and made a laundry list of general things I wished to accomplish during the year. I'd write them down, pin them somewhere I could see them. After making some progress, I'd eventually fizzle out. Sometimes I'd actually cross things off the list.

At any rate, at some point, I got tired of listing out all the things I wanted to “fix” in my life. And pretending like I could completely transform my life in one year by somehow Doing All The Things.

So I reduced the number of resolutions I made. I started picking one resolution for each major area of my life I wanted to improve. That actually worked pretty well for a long while. It gave me focus and allowed me to be SMART (ha, ha, see what I did there?) about moving forward and positioning various pieces of my life.

Eventually, though, my life experienced a massive upheaval (divorce) and I decided to take a year off from resolutions and just explore, think, and reflect. I loved it. It was kickass. So I decided that I don't make resolutions anymore. Ever.

I did flirt with using a theme word for the year, but it didn't go anywhere.

These days, I think about my priorities and values, and the things I can do to live with purpose, do some good, and enrich my life.

How do I do this thing, you ask? Read on to find out!

My life map

A few years ago, my friend Harlan introduced me to the idea of a life map. I liked it and decided to make one of my own.

I used the life map to figure out how to “follow my bliss” a few years ago. Every so often, though, I update the life map.

This year, after 2020 and all the things it brought to my attention about my life and what matters, I decided to create a new one.

It looks different from the first one I made years ago. Some of the main categories are the same but some have been subsumed into others. Additionally, some have disappeared, usually because I don't feel like I need to focus on them as much.

It's also interesting to note the overlap when you look at different parts of your life. Anyway, the life map helps me look at areas of interest to me — and then encourages me to figure out where to put my time and energy.

Mapping can be a way to help you visualize what you want from life. Harlan called his old life map “Things I Like to Do” because he wanted to sort through all his interests and figure out what to focus on. I still call my life map “Living with Passion and Purpose” because mine is about creating a life that I feel allows me to experience life in a meaningful way.

I don't make a new life map every year. But I decided I needed one this year.

Using a life map with goals — even when you don't make resolutions

Ok, so the life map is about figuring out what matters to you. And then what activities/things you can do/whatever works for you to focus on the things that matter to you. As you can see from my map, my current areas of interest are:

  • Travel
  • People
  • Make a positive difference
  • Personal development
  • Business

These are the areas I've identified as important to me if I want to live with passion and purpose.

Branched out from those main areas are the specific things I want to do in order to enhance those areas of my life.

This is where setting intentions, working toward goals, or doing whatever it is that you do to make progress comes into play. You can use your life map to guide the process. Whether you set SMART goals or use the life map to guide your vision board (or both). Hell, your life map can help you figure out which resolutions to make.

For some of the items on my life map, I know I need to break them down and come up with specific steps to make something happen. Looking at it all in one place helps me identify the things that need additional development and processes, and which I can just schedule in my calendar.

For example, I schedule my exercise time in my calendar so that my phone yells at me — and so that people can't schedule time with me when I'm supposed to be exercising. However, marketing the Freelance Writer Academy requires that I sit down with my business partners and come up with a plan and that we create a timeline for execution.

Make progress any time — don't make resolutions just one time a year

Whatever you call them (goals, resolutions, intentions), the thing I don't like about the idea of New Year's resolutions is the implication that you do it once a year. And then when you fail or quit working on whatever it was, you're done.

We all know, intellectually, that you can make new resolutions and set new goals and start over at any time. But, for some reason, for me, this idea of New Year's resolutions ended up being somewhat psychologically blocking for me. As if you just had one shot and the year is a lost cause at the first sign of slippage.

Today, I just don't make resolutions and instead focus on forward progress. Sometimes I backslide. Sometimes I do stupid shit and have to reset a little. Maybe the situation changes and I tweak my approach. I mean, life is still life. And it can be unexpected and messy and weird. But creating the life you want is about moving forward.

The time limit on that is however long you're on this earth. Anything you can do to make that time a little more meaningful, even if you never quite achieve the exact life you want, is a good thing.

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